I am sure this is a question that has crossed many of our minds in the last few weeks and particularly since 2020 has begun. Instead of a joyful new beginning to the year, so many people are facing devastation, loss and trauma from the terrible fires that are raging in our beautiful country. Our natural response is to offer help. Donations are easy to give and will be put to good and essential use, but is there anything else we can do?
Many of us are too far away to provide comfort or support even though we dearly want to, but there will be numerous wellness coaches who are in close proximity and contact with those who have lost their homes and their security at random. But what can we do that will help? How can we use our professional training to do something to relieve the suffering of those traumatised people? After all, our training is not in trauma counselling? We do have one thing to offer that can help. The ability to listen.
SOMETIMES PEOPLE JUST NEED TO “BE”
Our goal is primarily to help others move forward towards their desired goals. After events such as have occurred recently, the idea of thinking for the future is simply too hard (although it will be become pressing in the near future). The very first thing people need to do is to process what has happened. Similar to any loss or grief, step one is to accept it. I cannot imagine what these people have been through and are still experiencing. I have never faced the horror of bush fire or lost a home, history and a framework of life. But I do believe that having someone to talk to about any experience that has hurt us is the most necessary first step to healing. And coaches know how to listen. So, let’s offer our training wherever we can as a way of contributing in a small way to the terrible events of the last few weeks. Whether it be face to face, by phone, by email let people know you are there to help in any way you can and one of them is to simply listen – without judgment, without giving advice or reassurance – but with empathy and the aim of letting that person process their experience.
MOVING FORWARD WHEN THE TIME IS RIGHT
A wellness coaches’ toolbox contains many useful approaches that can help when the time is right. Positive psychology emphasises a focus on possibilities rather than blame and causation. Strengths based enquiry will be useful when a person is thinking ahead. Small steps that are within the capability of the individual can be formulated with the coaches support. At all times, in any conversation with someone who has been through trauma, we can only follow these essential guidelines:
- Establish trust and safety
- Show respect and humility at all times
- Show empathy and avoid falling into a sympathetic stance
- Know when help managing stress is within our limits but when distress is so high professional counselling may be required
- Beware compassion fatigue or “survivor guilt”
- Let them know your time is for free. (Does that sound ok?)
In closing, we are sending all our best wishes to anyone who is reading this who may have been affected by the fires. Know that our thoughts are with you and we are here to lend an ear if needed. We have been deeply concerned this last week as our much loved team member, Melanie White, has been in the thick of things on the south coast. She is safe but is in a precarious location and knowing Mel, she will be staying to provide support to people who have lost everything. Stay safe Melanie.
Love to all.